20. I Have so Much, You Have so Little: WHY?

by H. W. Moss

A “theory” is the human method of explaining things that cannot be proven. The Theory of Evolution, for example, remains unproven primarily because it takes too long. You can’t just sit around and watch a fruit fly evolve.

Einstein proposed his Theory of Relativity in two forms, Special and General. We’re still sorting that out.

There are many theories explaining how and why people perform in the workplace and, by extrapolation, their actions outside the workplace. In management studies there were first posited Theory X and Theory Y to tell us that some people work best when allowed to make their own decisions and others wish to be told in detail what to do, with the caveat that neither is “good” or “bad.” Theory Z was proposed when the Japanese seemed to be getting the better of us by using a form of group-think.

But I know of no theory which addresses a person’s “wealth accumulation view.”

I propose there ought to be a Theory FTL. The name is a completely arbitrary choice of letters. They stand for Faster Than Light in Science Fiction stories. Absolutely no reference to anything, especially to Sci Fi, is here implied.

Theory FTL has nothing to do with the rich and the poor. It would explain one’s ability to either gather wealth or not be able to gather wealth. People would fall into one of two categories, FTL-1 or FTL-2 under a curve. At the tails, Theory FTL would address the fact there are many who simply cannot accumulate a comfortable economic existence and, by contrast, many who simply cannot help it.

Those who cannot accumulate comfort may well be able to acquire and maintain possessions, they may succeed in day-to-day earning and spending, living and inhabiting, raising a family, regularly going to work, yet they fail to be able to do anything more than live from paycheck to paycheck or, in many cases, from perilous pecuniary circumstance to perilous circumstance day in, day out, year in, year out.

Theory FTL would seek to explain why that is. It would attempt to answer the question of how so many can have so much and so many others so little in a time and place of plenty. Analysis of this curious circumstance must be posed absent artificial social constraints, such as benefits and subsidies, and in a laissez-faire environment. In short, in a time and place very much like our own.

My own peculiar ability from early childhood to save milk money, pennies until they became dimes, to deposit these even as cash flow increased and greater wealth building took place practically without my volition over many years which now enables me to enjoy a warm, comfortable environment and have access to as much food as I could ever consume, to wear whatever clothing I choose to purchase with the expectation that this will continue long into the future is astounding in light of, by contrast, those who work hard (or hardly work, as some may with the same result) but are unable to create a solid, secure income stream greater than their daily needs. For such people, saving for more than a pair of shoes is out of bounds of any future plans. For them it would be sheer fantasy to envision a night at the movies with popcorn or a week in a hotel room anywhere.

There are many who have these less humble expectations even though they have respectable jobs in solid industries and have long sturdy work records. For some reason they simply cannot “get ahead” even as others in similar circumstances do “get ahead” and plan vacations, take time off, propose a future and generally enjoy an innate or learned ability to accumulate wealth.

Perhaps, these FTLers who cannot “get ahead” are similar to the losing pool player who says, “I must not want to win.” Perhaps, however, it goes much deeper than that.

Here are three examples of personality types Theory FTL would consider. None of these people have dependents other than a cat.

The Ant is a perfect example of a Theory FTL type at the extreme. He is an artist and is able to perform tasks, to work when directed. However, no one will direct him; nor can he figure out how to get that direction, oftentimes called a job. He lives in a Tenderloin hotel room with a shared shower and toilet down the hall and subsists on what he describes as his “homeless survival instinct.” The idea of a five dollar bill staying in his wallet over night is absurd.

Another friend in much better circumstances is Ann (Not her real name. She would not allow her real name to be used.) whom I have known for decades. She is a classic example of a Theory FTL on “maintenance.” She has a wonderful apartment she has occupied for many years and toils at her craft for long hours for numerous clients. But for some reason Ann has never been able to obtain more than a single month’s worth of money within any month. Christmas always looks bleak to Ann.

Then there is Bob (That is his real name. He said I could use it.) who had been my next door neighbor ever since I rented the flat to him decades ago. We sold the building and seven years later a subsequent landlord evicted him under the Ellis Act. In all likelihood Bob is now couch surfing because he had no job, no savings, no means of support. Yet he served honorably in the Air Force, accumulated thousands of objects over the years which filled the whole of his 1,400 square foot apartment and saw the eviction four years away from the time of his eventual loss of tenancy. Yet he was totally unprepared for the unpleasant eventuality when it hit.

Theory FTL will not find simple answers from Aesop’s fables, such as in the Ant and the Grasshopper. Theory FTL would be much bigger than that and not an easy theory to pin down. It will have to address complex reasons for an individual’s inability or ability to rise in the face of almost incredibly accessible means to comfortable long term living without putting the onus on those who cannot nor criticize those who are able do this almost unconsciously.